If you have some general knowledge of project management, you’ve likely come across or heard of Scrum boards. While they are most associated with software development, the methodology behind them can be used across industries and certainly tops sticky notes. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about digital Scrum boards, from burndown charts to sprint backlog items— without making your head spin.
What is a Scrum board or a Scrum table?
A Scrum board is a project management tool used by teams to visualize the items in their sprint backlog. A sprint backlog is a list of tasks or items that your team will use to populate your Scrum board. Your physical or virtual Scrum board is constantly being updated by team members and shows all items that need to be completed for a current sprint or time period.
Like most project management methods, the goal of a Scrum board is to align everyone on what they need to accomplish and to provide a central place for monitoring progress. The advantage of using a Work OS or an online platform for your Scrum board of course is that you can do all of this in real-time—but more on that later.
A word on Scrum vs. Agile
Certain teams and organizations have a preference towards either Scrum or Agile methodologies for their workflows. In fact, 88% of companies are in some stage of embracing the Agile methodology, and 78% use the Scrum framework to implement it. When you are creating a Scrum board, it’s important that you will be able to customize it specifically to support this methodology. Here are a few common traits of Scrum teams that will impact your Scrum tool’s board design:
- In Scrum, you divide your larger development team into smaller Scrum teams of 3-9 people.
- Scrum teams are self-sufficient, with all the skills needed to complete their project requirements.
- Larger projects are divided into shorter, more manageable sprints of 1-4 weeks.
In a nutshell, a Scrum board can:
- Visually organize a sprint backlog and the individual user stories (features or functionality from a user’s perspective).
- Denote ownership of user stories and workflows to team members.
- Give everyone context so they can identify potential bottlenecks in the process.
Here’s what a Scrum board can look like on monday.com.
Our internal teams create a new group for each new iteration or Sprint during the Sprint planning meeting. As you explore our templates and platform, you will see there are almost endless options for customization, you can use a whole range of columns like Timeline to serve as a progress column. The best part is that you can use all of your sprint board data to create your own Scrum dashboard using our widgets.
Some team also use a burndown chart, a graphical representation of work left to do versus time.
What is the difference between a Scrum and Kanban board?
Kanban boards divide workflows into discrete sections, such as: to do, in progress, testing, and done.
Think of them as the Agile sprint board, though they work very differently from a Scrum task board:
Is there such thing as an Agile Scrum board? 81% of Agile companies use both Scrum and Kanban together. This means that they might manage certain areas of a project with Kanban (such as defect resolution), while individual teams use Scrum Sprints to create product increments.
The combination of the two is called Scrumban. For instance, a Scrumban team might use a product backlog to track and prioritize work. But then, rather than implementing sprints, they’ll use a Kanban board with set WIP limits to organize workflows.
How to use a Scrum board
While pen and paper Scrum boards exist, we highly recommend a digital Scrum board because it complements remote work and has many unique benefits like:
- Assign ownership with notifications
- Attach and create files and docs
- Add digital comments to collaborate,
- and much more.
Here are our best practices for getting your Scrum board started using monday.com Work OS.
Adopt a template
Grab one of our 200+ templates to design your first Scrum board. It’ll save you a huge amount of time and eliminate all those questions about what should and shouldn’t be included. Plus, with a template, each team, Sprint, and project will have a similar layout so everyone is using your Scrum boards the same way.
Create your task board as a team
Meet with your Scrum team, including the product owner to populate your template with the tasks, user stories, features, or requirements you need to track. Work together to flesh out each candidate product backlog item, create logical work items, and estimate how long each project and activity should take.
All members should collaborate to flesh out user stories into tangible work items and assign different steps of the workflow to team members with relevant skills.
Deadlines vs. story points
At monday.com we like to work with story points rather than hard deadlines within an active Sprint.
A story point (SP) is a flexible measure of how much time and effort a user story will take to implement. For our internal teams, we define one SP as a full workday.
We only schedule 8 SP during a 2-week Sprint to give our teams time to handle anything unforeseen that comes up. With a virtual Scrum board, you can also set up notifications if a work item falls behind schedule.
How many columns should a Scrum board have?
Some Scrum boards are laid out with a column for each workday or each workflow stage (similar to a Kanban-view). But at monday.com we do things differently. Our Scrum process includes up to 10 different stages which means most of us opt to not use a Kanban board view—but you still can!
We use a table view with a separate row for each activity and columns for status, the person assigned, priority, and estimated time. Using our Scrum Sprint Planning template you can also add other columns as needed. The dependency column is a great feature if you have tasks that affect each other (i.e., one has to be completed before the next one starts.)
How do you stop your Scrum board from getting overwhelming?
Take a page from our book…
- Don’t become too ambitious when planning your Sprints. We leave two full workdays open when planning.
- You don’t want tasks that are too long (4 days+) or too short (1–2 hours).
- Only import relevant user stories from your main product backlog. (No need to include potential work items or undefined requirements; focus on the Sprint goal.)
- Don’t include too much text/information on cards — link to or attach a doc.
- Keep the tasks relevant to the project/team at hand
Create an effective Scrum Board
An online Scrum board is a great addition to any Scrum team or soon-to-be Scrum master and process. Done right, it can be the perfect addition for managing rapidly changing projects and your sprint retrospective.
If you’re getting ready to plan an upcoming Sprint, try our free Scrum board template!